Mexicans and Koreans worry more about their environment than people in the Netherlands. And many Australians and Norwegians say their own actions can make a difference. These are some of the findings of a survey of 10,000 people across 10 countries – Australia, Canada, Czech Republic, France, Italy, Korea, Mexico, Netherlands, Norway and Sweden.
“We have to change our behaviour if we want to move to a more sustainable environmental path,” said OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría. “From the biggest companies to the smallest households, we each must do our part. This survey shows that enlightened public policies will help people make the right choices – they will go ‘green’.”
Globally, households are responsible for about 20% of all water consumed – less than industry and agriculture, but still a substantial amount.
Canadians and Mexicans use about twice as much water per person as their counterparts in France or the Czech Republic. Use of water-saving devices also varies widely across countries, with Australians almost twice as likely as Koreans to have water-efficient washing machines, showers and toilets.
Pricing is a major factor in these variations – charged on a ‘the more you use, the more you pay’ basis, people use 20% less water.
Globally households use about 30% of energy produced and emit 20% of CO2. Those figures are rising rapidly as people buy more cell phones, home computers and small appliances.
Households in Australia, Norway and Canada have on average more than 11 appliances while Koreans, Mexicans and Czechs have fewer than 8. Mexicans, followed by the Dutch, French and Italians are most likely to conserve energy by turning off lights and appliances and lowering the heat. Almost 80% of Czech and Italian households have installed energy-efficient appliances in the past 10 years, compared to 30% in Korea and 40% in Sweden.
Metering/charging for electricity encourages people to conserve, buy energy-efficient appliances and turn them off when not in use. Owners, but not tenants, are inclined to invest in energy-efficiency measures such as better insulation. Encouraging landlords to ‘green’ their rental properties is possible, but could be expensive.
Waste and Recycling
In many countries, households are responsible for 75% of municipal waste. Though waste management is improving – more incineration and recycling – there is still too much garbage.
Neighbourhoods with weekly garbage collection produce almost 20% more than those where garbage is collected less frequently. Most households in Sweden and the Netherlands dispose of dangerous waste like batteries and medicines safely. Most Australians, Mexicans and Canadians do not. On the other hand, Canadians, Australians and Swedes recycle twice as many products as Czechs and Mexicans. In all countries, young people generate 10% more garbage than their parents, and small households twice as much per person as larger ones.
Charging by volume of garbage collected encourages people to generate less waste than charging by weight. For recycling, door-to-door collection is more effective than a drop-off system, but more expensive.
Carbon dioxide emissions from transport are expected to double by 2050 – personal transport is a big part of that problem.
Koreans prefer public transport; Czechs walk, drive or take public transport in equal proportions; and more than half the people in all the other countries surveyed choose their cars. Second choice in the Netherlands is cycling, while in Canada, France, Italy, the Czech Republic, Sweden and Norway it’s walking. In most countries people would use public transport if it were faster. In Mexico the concern is security, in France it’s convenience and in Sweden it’s reliability. Mexico and Italy top the list where people say they would cycle if the infrastructure were better.
People are looking for convenient options – public transport less than 15 minutes from home/work and better cycling infrastructure. Price is also a factor: most people without cars say cost, not environmental concerns, affect their choices. And drivers say that if gas prices went up by 20% they would drive 8% less.
For more information, please visit: http://www.oecd.org/environment/households/greeningbehaviour